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The Atlanta Braves' Freddie Freeman celebrates his go-ahead home run in the 8th inning of Tuesday night's NLDS game against the Milwaukee Brewers in Atlanta.

COVID-19 expert offers hope

TRIAD — A coronavirus expert with a Triad-based health system sounded a cautiously optimistic note Tuesday on the outlook for COVID-19 through the fall and winter.

Citing national forecasting models, Dr. David Priest, an infectious disease specialist with Winston-Salem-based Novant Health, said in an online press briefing that he expects the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths to continue to decline into early next year.

“It’s going to piddle out over time,” he said.

By spring, because of the high percentage of people who will have been either vaccinated or previously infected, the number of cases of severe illness from the virus may level off, he said.

Pressed by a reporter to say whether that means he thinks the worst of the pandemic is behind us, he smiled and said, “I am only a man,” and doesn’t have a crystal ball.

“I think the fourth wave (of infections in the U.S.), the worst is behind us,” he said. “Only God in heaven knows what’s ahead of us.”

The emergence of another dangerous variant of the virus could upend the projections, he said.

The number of people requiring hospitalization, both in North Carolina and across the country, climbed during the summer to levels not seen since the early part of 2021. The numbers have declined in recent weeks.

Priest said the number of COVID-19 patients in all of Novant’s hospitals declined from 315 to 400 patients two weeks ago to 250 to 300 now.

Cone Health said in a press release Tuesday that there were 112 patients in its hospitals as of Tuesday morning, the lowest number since Aug. 20.

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services reported that the number of North Carolina residents being treated for COVID-19 in hospitals dropped to 2,152 on Monday, compared to 3,776 one month earlier.

Local schools get new principals
  • Updated

GUILFORD COUNTY — Leaders of Guilford County Schools have announced new principals, including moves at schools in High Point.

The appointments were approved by the Guilford County Board of Education during its meeting Tuesday night.

Bennie Bradley will become the new principal at Oak View Elementary School in High Point, replacing Deanna Daniel, who is moving to Rankin Elementary School in Greensboro.

Bradley has served as principal at Guilford Preparatory Academy and presented to the N.C. State Board of Education on the school’s work to create a culture of excellence for boys of color. He has previously served as an assistant principal at Southwest Middle School in High Point and a principal intern at Cone Elementary School in Greensboro.

Leslie Kinard will return to Ferndale Middle School in High Point as its new principal, replacing LaToya Caesar, who will transfer to Greensboro College Middle College.

Kinard returns to Ferndale from Riverside High School in Durham, where she has been since March.

From February 2019 to March 2021 she was principal of Ferndale. Kinard also spent nearly two years as principal of Thomasville High School.

Other principal announcements include:

• Melanee Friday will come from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg County school system to serve as principal at Frazier Elementary School in Greensboro.

• Cheri Keels will become principal at the STEM Early College at North Carolina A&T State University.

• Fredrick Sellars will become principal at SCALE-Greensboro.

In another matter, the board heard a brief presentation from its attorney Jill Wilson about redistricting. The board will redraw lines for districts to start with next year’s election based on results of the 2020 census.

Wilson said board members will receive information soon on the redistricting process. She said that proposed maps will be accepted from the public and from board members, as well as generated by staff in Wilson’s law office.

The High Point Enterprise reported in Tuesday’s edition that redistricting would gear up soon to meet the deadline of Dec. 6 for the start of candidate filing for the 2022 elections.

Five of nine seats are before voters next year. Democrats have a 6-3 majority now.

One possibility Wilson mentioned would involve the new school board districts matching those of the Guilford County Board of Commissioners, who have been working on redistricting since the summer. Democrats hold a 7-2 edge on the Board of Commissioners.

The school board, which began meeting in-person this past summer for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, reverted to a remote meeting Tuesday evening. The board is expected to return to an in-person meeting for its next meeting at 6 p.m. Oct. 19.

pjohnson@hpenews.com | 336-888-3528 | @HPEpaul

Experts: Flu vaccines needed despite COVID
  • Updated

HIGH POINT — With flu season just around the corner, health experts are encouraging everyone to get a flu shot even if they have gotten the COVID-19 vaccine.

The N.C. Division of Public Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strongly recommend getting an annual seasonal flu vaccination, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. The World Health Organization estimates 1 billion people worldwide get the flu and up to 650,000 people die of flu-related causes every year.

Although influenza and COVID-19 are both respiratory illnesses that can rapidly spread to others, they are caused by different viruses. The death rate related to COVID-19 is thought to be substantially higher (possibly 10 times or more) than most strains of the flu. A flu vaccine is not a replacement for the COVID-19 vaccine and vice versa.

The time is right now to get flu vaccines, said Jordan Smith, assistant professor of clinical science at High Point University’s Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy. Smith recommends getting the flu vaccine no later than Nov. 1 for it to last the entire flu season, which usually stretches from October to May. The flu vaccine takes about two weeks for full immunity in your body.

“Especially in older patients 65 and up, you see a little less robust and shorter overall immune response to flu vaccines than in younger, healthier patients,” Smith said. “Because of that, we sometimes recommend getting the flu vaccine a little farther into the season to really be able to fit in that six-month window of efficacy to encompass the whole season. The peak flu times are November-December and January-February, but it starts now and goes all the way through April.”

Those at high risk for serious flu complications include the elderly, young children, pregnant women, those with preexisting health conditions or compromised immune systems. Each year, the flu shot is about 40% to 60% effective at preventing flu-related illness.

“You want to prevent getting the flu,” Smith said. “The flu is a big deal. It still kills tens of thousands of people every year.”

When you get the flu shot, you’re protecting yourself and your loved ones. People who have chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease, asthma, COPD and are age 65 or over tend to do worse with flu, Smith said.

“They tend to be the ones who get hospitalized and have those complicated outcomes,” Smith said. “The likelihood of getting really sick with flu is greatly diminished with flu vaccines. The benefits are not getting as sick and preventing sickness in the really sick folks.”

Those who have not yet received a COVID-19 vaccination can do so at the same time as their flu vaccination. The CDC says you do not need to worry about the vaccines overlapping. However, patients should not receive the flu vaccine or COVID-19 vaccine if they are acutely ill or believe they have COVID-19. Instead, they should wait until they are not acutely ill before they receive vaccines.

Unlike the COVID vaccinations, flu vaccines are recommended for children from 6 months up.

HPU pharmacy students began providing free flu vaccines Monday at the Community Clinic of High Point.

The Guilford County Division of Public Health also is offering appointments for anyone age 6 months and older. Appointments are available from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday at its 501 E. Green Drive office and in Greensboro at 1100 E. Wendover Ave. To schedule an appointment, call 336-641-3245. When calling to schedule an appointment, ensure that health insurance, Medicaid, Medicare or Medicare Supplement information is readily available.

There is so much overlap in respiratory symptoms, the most reliable thing a sick person can do is get tested for both, Smith said.

“The treatments for both, depending on how sick you are, are basically just going to be supportive,” Smith said. “Take Tylenol, Motrin, take care of yourself and your symptoms until you’re better. With flu, there are some antiviral medications that help symptoms. For the most part, it’s taking care of yourself and making sure it doesn’t get any worse so you don’t have to go to the hospital.”

cingram@hpenews.com | 336-888-3534 | @HPEcinde


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